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Ken Rosenthal is beating the contraction drum again

Feb 24, 2011, 8:28 PM EDT

Texas Rangers v Tampa Bay Rays, Game 1 Getty Images

Ken Rosenthal wrote a column today — or maybe it was yesterday; I told you that this mountain time stuff was weirding me out — in which he said he’s “hearing rumblings that certain big-market teams want to drop the A’s and Rays.”  Meaning contract them.

Rosenthal then quickly proceeded to dismiss the contraction gambit as unworkable and admitted that it stands little chance of ever happening.

And he’s right to do so for the very reasons he cites: the union would consider it to be an assault on membership.  Politicians who are already inclined to mess with baseball over issues that affect virtually none of their constituents would go absolutely insane if their local ballclub and the many jobs and civic identity they create were threatened. And that’s before you figure that the owners of any teams that were contracted would have to be bought out.  To the tune of over a billion combined dollars for two teams, I’d reckon.

Here’s a quick financial lesson: when the very thing that is cited as a problem justifying contraction — a few teams having to pay tens or, occasionally, one hundred million dollars in revenue sharing — is way cheaper than the alleged solution, you know it’s not happening.  Especially when you consider that those complaining of the problem — the Yankees and Red Sox — are vastly outnumbered by the teams who don’t have any significant revenue sharing obligations to begin with.

No, contraction isn’t happening. The only thing that even comes close to having it make sense is if franchise values become so low that buying out owners isn’t too big a deal and overall revenues decrease to the point where not contracting a couple of team imperils the others as well.  In case you haven’t noticed, baseball is swimming in cash at the moment.  And the ones swimming in the nicest pool are the owners of the very teams who like to moan and complain about revenue sharing.

As for Rosenthal, I can’t dispute his source. I’m sure someone has “rumbled” about the A’s and the Rays recently, because billionaires love to rumble.  But it should be noted that Rosenthal himself has a bit of a hair trigger when it comes to this sort of thing.  Just last May he was floating a crazy contraction scheme involving the Royals and Pirates that was designed to save the Rays and A’s.

We all have weaknesses. Mine are “best shape of his life” stories, steroids and thinking the absolute worst about the Wilpons. Ken’s seem to involve over-the-top structural changes in the game, be it his contraction ideas or his even loopier radical realignment proposals.

They’re fun — all ideas are fun, especially off-the-wall ones — but they’re just ideas, and often there isn’t a heck of a lot to the hobby horses we all like to ride from time to time.

  1. bloodysock - Feb 24, 2011 at 8:40 PM

    Can’t we just contract the Trop and Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

    • thinman61 - Feb 24, 2011 at 8:47 PM


      Hate hate hate that godawful gym in St. Pete.

    • apbaguy - Feb 25, 2011 at 12:15 AM

      Sorry I messed all this today, damn work. Anyway, nice idea. The two lousiest stadiums in the game. The Mausoleum at least has the virtue of having beautiful turf and natural light, making it 29th to the Trops 30th.

  2. thinman61 - Feb 24, 2011 at 8:45 PM

    Contract the Rays? A team that won the AL (B)east last season? No freaking way! The Rays’ attendance problems, and the fact that they’re able to contend in spite of them, are signs of a team begging to be moved, not contracted. Ditto with the A’s, whose fortunes would no doubt greatly improve if Bud ever allowed them to move to the south bay.

    • cur68 - Feb 24, 2011 at 10:20 PM

      Woooo, Skinny, you got some chops with that idea there. But you’re moving that team in the wrong direction. I say resurrect them as the Expos. Either that or see if they could get a market in Vancouver. You’re with me on this one, right?

  3. yankeesfanlen - Feb 24, 2011 at 8:47 PM

    Whew! Glad he didn’t mean the Yankees. Thought Hank was talkin’ again.

  4. bigtrav425 - Feb 24, 2011 at 9:28 PM

    where the hell did this Ken R guy even come from? iv never heard of him till 2-3 yrs ago now he knows all….altho i do somewhat agree there needs to be contraction of a team or 2 but it will more then likely never happen

    • Ari Collins - Feb 24, 2011 at 10:22 PM

      Rosenthal’s been around a good while. He’s much much better for rumors than actual baseball analysis, though.

    • thinman61 - Feb 25, 2011 at 6:12 AM

      Yeah, Rosenthal is a New Yorker born and raised, and a Yankee fan—a bias that sometimes creeps into his “analysis”—but he came up as a sports reporter for the Baltimore Sun.

  5. nicosamuelson2 - Feb 24, 2011 at 9:43 PM

    How is it that the MLBPA is so much stronger than the players’ unions in the NBA and NFL?

    I am certainly glad that they are (Franchise tags? Ick.), I am just curious about how it got that way.

    • crankyfrankie - Feb 24, 2011 at 10:37 PM

      The MLBPA hired a former President of the steelworkers , Marvin Miller, as its head and he knew how to lead a union . He fought for free agency which is why he should be in the hall of fame and will, probably, never be in the hall of fame.
      Second I think it is time to move the A’s back to Philadelphia where they belong. Since Phillies tickets have become impossible to get it is probably my only chance to see major league baseball in person without driving to D.C.

  6. dmccarrie - Feb 24, 2011 at 10:26 PM

    Rosenthal had an interesting idea last season that basically would have the teams in Pittsburgh and KC contract and have the A’s and Rays teams fill those voids.

    That way two good baseball markets get the decent teams with better owners than they have now. I thought it was a decent idea.

  7. Old Gator - Feb 24, 2011 at 10:54 PM

    I think that cosmological physicists are pretty much in agreement now that the expansion of the universe will never be dragged to a halt by dark matter and that it will go on expanding forever. Therefore, in the spirit of the Mesopotamians, Indus Valley Dravidians, Egyptians, Mayans and the Druids of Stonehenge who built and aligned their cities to simulate the order they discerned in the cosmos, that MLB not only not contract, but continue adding new teams at every opportunity. Vancouver is a great place to start. Bring back the Expos. San Antonio/Austin awaits. Albuquerque. Salt Lake City. Charlotte. Orlando/Celebration (animatronics like baseball too). Keep expanding. It’s the mythic thing to do.

    • Ari Collins - Feb 24, 2011 at 10:58 PM

      Gator, I’m sure someone has asked this before, but why the heck now do you not have your own (rather insane) blog?

      • Old Gator - Feb 24, 2011 at 11:51 PM

        I don’t have one because the blessed Buddha has not provided one. It’s kinda like that old Stephen Crane poem, you know? Here it is in full, and I think it’s pretty self-explanatory:

        A man said to the universe:
        “Sir I exist!”
        “However,” replied the universe,
        “The fact has not created in me
        A sense of obligation.”

      • Ari Collins - Feb 25, 2011 at 10:58 AM

        Just grab a blog. Don’t wait to be discovered.

      • Old Gator - Feb 25, 2011 at 12:07 PM

        I’ve thought about it. But working behind the counter is so much fun. They let me help myself to the ice cream and cherry syrup, and all sorts of interesting people drop in and chat. The other day, David Lynch came in to show off his new penny loafers and we had a lovely conversation about which actors are and aren’t willing to have surgery for their roles. If you’re going to be retired, this is the way to do it – though there are times when these high heels really kill me.

    • cur68 - Feb 24, 2011 at 11:17 PM

      Gator you may have a thing for horned toads and all lizard kind in general but you talk sense a lot. Damn right bring back the Expos. The Vancouver team can be the Vancouver Beavers (I swear those big rats are EVIL; totally badass name for a Canadian ball club. My dream is that they have a big knuckle baller on the staff, nicknamed Moose). Texas definitely needs another team and the league should expand to play the Japanese teams as well. American League, National League, Japanese League. THEN it’s be the World Series baby!

      • cur68 - Feb 24, 2011 at 11:21 PM

        Oops. Got a little worked up there (wipes spittle off chin). Last sentence of my totally lucid plan was; *THEN it’ll be the…*

      • Old Gator - Feb 24, 2011 at 11:57 PM

        I agree wholeheartedly that beaver is terrifying. I watched a triple feature of B horror movies on Zacherley when I was about nine – Day of the Killer Papayas, Night of the Giant Beaver and Morning of the Coyote Ugly. I’ve never really recovered from those. Eventually, I grew a beard to help me face up to my subconscious disruptions but even that hasn’t worked. I will say, however, that based on my occasional visits to Vancouver, I think that Vancouver Beavers is an entirely appropriate name for an expansion team.

    • bloodysock - Feb 25, 2011 at 12:17 AM

      Albuquerque? I’d say Vegas gets a team 100 years before Albuquerque.

      And Salt Lake? Most teams restrict online ticket purchases to 8 tickets. That makes if tough for a family to be able to go to a game together.

      • yankeesfanlen - Feb 25, 2011 at 7:49 AM

        I believe there’s been some research done on Vegas. Misguided as it may be, the conclusion is that rather than going to this entertainment mecca to watch a baseball game of teams they may or may not know, most visitors come and partake of……other things.

      • davebrownspiral - Feb 25, 2011 at 8:16 AM

        The Alberquerque Isotopes? I don’t think Paint Drinking Pete would approve.

      • Old Gator - Feb 25, 2011 at 8:37 AM

        Len: I think what the Vegas team should do is subcontract their cheerleaders from the Chicken Ranch or some of the other ambient centers of horizontal entertainment. Let’s face it, some of the costumes on some of the MLB teams are awful anyway, and hardly any of the MLB cheerleaders can actually dance worth a damn (the vocal relaxation pas de deuxes in The King’s Speech were more graceful than most MLB cheerleaders’ routines), so having a dozen Vegas hookers come out and dance on the dugout roof in their team branded spiked heels, G-strings, topless fishnet body stockings and diaphanous negligee would hardly be any more garish than what goes on at, say, Joeprodolsharklife Stadium on a given evening – and I guarangoddamntee you they’d be better synchronized.

        And of course, you could book one of the the girls for the seventh inning stretch….

  8. Ari Collins - Feb 24, 2011 at 11:00 PM

    With all the money pouring into MLB, I’d think they’d be more likely to add a team than to lose one. I put more stock in those rumors, personally.

    Although it takes a lot of time and work to convince a city to give you a corporate welfare handout, so it could be a while.

  9. thinman61 - Feb 25, 2011 at 8:27 AM


    Oh, wait, if Oregon acquired a professional baseball team, Washington might get jealous and want one too. 😉

    • jwbiii - Feb 25, 2011 at 9:18 AM

      Portland? They just lost their AAA team because the residents think that they should be spending their meager tax money on trivial things like paying teachers and fixing roads rather than building a new stadium. Hippies. Meh.

      Oddly enough, the Portland team was the Beavers, so the name is available. I’m assuming here that Tucson, where they are moving, at least for now, will come up with some more appropriate team name. Tucson Horned Toads has a nice ring to it.

      • bloodysock - Feb 25, 2011 at 9:39 AM

        Tucson Padres. Quite original.

        Plan is to move to Escondido. I don’t think Escondido Beavers has the same ring.

      • sportsdrenched - Feb 25, 2011 at 9:50 AM

        Should the Beavers retain their name and move to town called Eaton?

        Hell Yes.

      • jwbiii - Feb 25, 2011 at 10:07 AM

        True enough about the plan to move to Escondido. Doesn’t the stadium plan there require the use of redevelopment funds which may not be available or bonds which may not be tax exempt?

        I was really hoping for a name which would play on Padre and the junior status of a minor league team, like the Seminaristas.

      • cur68 - Feb 25, 2011 at 10:53 AM

        In Old Yeller (best dog movie ever) kid called em “Horny Toads”. I WANT to be in the stands chanting “Go Horny Toads”.

      • Old Gator - Feb 25, 2011 at 12:14 PM

        Don’t diss Portland. The dim sum on Saturdays and Sundays is as good as it gets in any Chinatown in the world. There’s Powells Bookstore; if I ever get trapped inside a building by an earthquake, a massive solar flare or an army ant migration, that’s the building wherein I wish to be trapped. Oh, and there’s the annual Science Fiction and Horror/Fantasy convention in Hollywood at some magnificent old theater, where you get to see the latest in Klingon, Vulcan and other assorted implants, bas-relief tattooing, vampire fans who have actually had fangs implanted in their mouths and sleep in coffins all day, coming out at night only to stuff envelopes with anti-working class propaganda for the local Republican congressman. Also, taking a break from horned toads, the local newts are deliriously poisonous. I love Portland. Who wouldn’t?

  10. sportsdrenched - Feb 25, 2011 at 9:56 AM

    I like it when people in fly-over country get in the craw of those big city types.

  11. stairwayto7 - Feb 25, 2011 at 4:12 PM

    Contract the newer teams, Rays, Marlins, Dbacks and rockies! They have no long history!

    • nullstadt - Feb 25, 2011 at 5:39 PM

      Oh yes, contract them, even though between the Dbacks and Marlins they’ve won 3 more WS in the last 14 years than the Cubs have won in 100+?

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